Alligators are carnivorous. They live entirely on meat and prey on
whatever game comes their way, taking their food into the water to eat it
below the surface. They are capable of existing for long periods without
food, and in captivity are not difficult to feed. They prefer fish, muskrats,
turtles, frogs and other small creatures.
In midsummer the egg-laying season begins. Females lay from 50 to
200 eggs each. The nest for the eggs is made of grass, leaves, and sticks
covered with mud to make a mortar-like floor. Upon the floor the first layer
of eggs is placed, covered with another layer of mortar, and so on in this
manner until the nest resembles a blunt-shaped cone about four feet high
and four or five foot in diameter. The egg, slightly larger than a hen's egg,
instead of being covered with shell, has a tough, leathery, skin covering.
When all of the eggs have been laid and carefully covered, the
female waits patiently by for the heat of the sun to do the hatching. It is
believed that fermentation of vegetable matter, mixed with the mud, helps
to increase and retain the heat in the hillock nests, thus helping the hatching.
When the first babies are hatched, the mother takes them under her care,
staying very near the nest as she awaits the others. She will also take the
young form other nests. Baby 'gators are feeble and helpless when first
hatched and, despite ardent maternal protection, are frequently preyed upon
and devoured by wild birds and turtles. The male parent also has a
tendency to eat them when not too closely watched by the mother. Few of
them, therefore, live to maturity.